I am all about doing things the right way. Taking the time to do things right whether your in the kitchen or out in the orchard always bring better results in terms of flavor. The term “heirloom” brings excitement to anyone enthusiastic about produce. A few years ago I discovered heirloom navel oranges and it was one of the best discoveries I have made in my food journey. What might be wondering what makes it different than the regular naval orange you are used to buying?
What Makes a Navel Orange a Heirloom?
The word heirloom itself means something that has been passed down from generation to generation. The heirloom navel is the same fruit that got California’s citrus industry booming. It’s the original or “old line” Washington Navel. The navel has been bred over the years to produce more fruit, easier, and faster without considering flavor. Heirloom navels are grown using certain farming practices. The grower gives special attention to the soil, just like it was done since navels were introduced to America from Brazil in the 1800s. The secret is to use the best root stock. The heirlooms grow best in a sour root stock. But these isn’t commonly used anymore because the trees don’t produce fruit as heavily or as quickly than in newer root stocks. Doing things the right way is what gives the heirloom navels there amazing taste. If you have one of these, I think you will be disappointed if you ever buy the grocery market standard navel again.
Sometimes you find find heirloom navels still with their leaves intact and sometimes you won’t. Unlike the navel you are used to, heirlooms aren’t in stores year around. They typically will find them in stores from December into late April/early May with the peak being in the winter months. A couple of growers to look out for are Ripe to You and Cecelia Packing.
You will recognize Ripe to You by their black stickers with the website “ripetoyou.com” written on them. I have grown to trust that I am getting quality citrus whenever I see one of those stickers. They grow their heirlooms at Rising C Ranches in Orange Cove, California.
Cecelia Packing uses their Sky Valley label for their heirloom navels. I recently discovered them at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s and was pleased with the quality and price. I also purchased one of their Cara Cara Navels at Whole Foods and wish I had bought more!
When are Heirloom Navels in Season?
Growing things the right way sometime takes more time. The first California Navels start to hit the market more than a month before the heirlooms. Around mid-January is when you can realistically begin expecting to see Heirloom Navels show up in your local store.
Do They Grow Heirloom Navels in Florida as well?
To me knowledge they do not. I have searched around on the subject and have come up empty handed. It seems to be a Cali only thing.
Have you had an heirloom navel? I would love to know what you think? Leave a comment below.